The Outsider In The Mirrors at 6 Years

9 February 2024

The six year anniversary of the release of this album just sort of snuck up, and with that here’s some reflections on The Outsider In The Mirrors, released 09 February 2018 on Possession Records.

The Outsider In the Mirrors | LP Cover
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The six year anniversary of the release of this album, The Outsider In The Mirrors, just sort of snuck up today, and as it was noticed I figured I was in the mood to give some reflection on it in a little piece of writing you see here. It seems to be more prevalent, especially with the instant public platforms that are social media, to quickly post a chronological milepost for things.

Released on 09 February 2018, The Outsider In The Mirrors was the second release on what was at the time the newly christened Possession Records, a label I started with two other Glasgow musicians who have been out of the picture for a good number of years now. It was the first “flagship” release, meaning that it good the full album format treatment being released on vinyl LP, cassette and digipak CD. It was a bit of a production and for me a definite crash course in how to release a record including manufacturing, organising press, working with PR (Alan Miller of Abnormal PR in Glasgow graciously lent his services to this one), doing interviews, setting up distribution and a lot of other things I really didn’t have much experience with.

Overall I have mixed feelings about this record, which explains why I really only play one track off this record in live performances (“He’s Gone Underground”) to this day.

Starting first off on a positive strong point, it was the first record in the order of releases that really established the quality of production, mixing and mastering that would inform records that came after it, such as When Push Comes To Shove (2019) and No. (2023), and definitely had some great tracks with variety and strong performances — especially with synth lines and the overall vocal performance excelling over the previous releases. I finally had latched on to some production techniques that were miles ahead of previous releases (the exception being the 2015 album You Never Know What Might Come Next, which was the only album I did with an outside producer — the wonderful Owen Pratt of Uncanny Valley/Nöi Kabát). There was also a conscious shift to write more “pop” songs compared to previous albums, albeit through my own unique filter.

However, the main detriment to this record musically is that the songs were written in a way that didn’t consider the execution in live performance, which was definitely far more considered on the following albums, with tracks in more recent times being written with a hybrid live/studio compositional approach to get the parts down in a way as to how I would do them live in the writing process.

A good number of the songs on the album are actually quite difficult to play live and with that level of difficulty they’re not as fun to play. This record for me was “peak synth prog” which I have pulled back from that extreme since. The opening track “The Eyes On The Walls” was an incredible feat of synth wrangling gymnatics, with many opposing parts needing precision to play the majority of those parts live. Other tracks off the album have been replaced in live sets with newer songs that share similar mood, pacing and instrument but are just more rewarding and more impactful to play. Some tracks only got played live once or twice, such as “The Saddest Music In The World” and the closing title track, “The Outsider In The Mirrors”, the latter never quite feeling right to play live.

Another detriment to the album which I would have done very differently now is the artwork. Up until and including this album, most releases featured the “original” Soft Riot visual style, which was far more heavily influenced by collage-style artwork and pulling more from psychedelia and science fiction. There would be a massive shift to a more “cleaner” style on the following album. The visuals I had in mind for Outsiders, despite the amount of work put into it, just didn’t hit the mark as I wanted it to — a feeling that grew after its release and was a catalyst for changing up the style on future releases. Also, I had made some technical gaffs when creating the artwork for this release, forgetting to pay attention to printing colour profiles that resulted in the three different formats having the same artwork that looked different in colour. Again, this was an issue I flagged on future releases and have since overcome that issue.

The release included a couple of music videos for the tracks “The Eyes On The Walls” and “Waiting For Something Terrible To Happen”, as well as a strange, promotional video for the album (all listed below). All three videos carried over the “humour” element in videos from the previous album, You Never Know What Might Come Next, but to a new level — complete with parody, humourous “commercials” that bookended the videos with strange characters, bizarre video effects and as if you tuned into some late night cable-access TV channel. The videos themselves were a bit disorienting but visually attentive. As this album came out, a lot of press and interviews started to focus on the humour element rather than the music, and not wanting to be misconstrued as a goofy “joke” act, I opted to make the humour a lot more subtle going forward, especially with the videos, which play up the hinted menace a bit more than taking the humour angle.

Overall it might be strange for someone to read this and see an artist taking apart their own album rather than try to wax on about it and pitch to sell it, but these comments aren’t meant to be negative or disparaging. Music, like all art, is an evolution and a learning process and many musicians that evolve and have produced albums that any range of fans might listen to always wish they could have done something different on previous recordings. It’s that type of review and reflection that pushes an artist to move forward, improve, learn and try new things.

Looking back on the album with a rear view mirror approach, overall there’s some cool tracks on the album that definitely showed evolution. If anything the albums that came before it were from an “old” version of Soft Riot, and The Outsider In The Mirrors and the albums that came after it being the “new/current” Soft Riot, with You Never Know What Might Come Next being sort of a lynchpin transitional album that contained some of the old but hinting at the new.

Album Videos

Release Artwork